My little slice of Alabama’s championship season.

There are a lot of factors that go into developing The Perfect Agency. But the ultimate goal of creating such an ad agency is to create the right conditions to consistently generate great work that has a meaningful impact on the clients we serve.  Just before the college football season began this fall my team and I were working feverishly to bring a really exciting new campaign to life for UPS. The basic premise of the project was that college football has a tremendous economic impact on college football towns. So we profiled these great towns that often double in population thanks to the pilgrimages that occur on football Saturdays.

We talked to local businesses and they shared the opportunities and challenges associated with the swelling demands of game day. And I was proud to hear business owners declare that our client, UPS, played an instrumental role in enabling them to meet those demands.

Thanks to this campaign my football season started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama last August in 99 degree heat.  We spent two days covering the town, the school, the Crimson Tide football program and the local small businesses. I came away with a real affinity for the town, the beautiful campus, and the people.  I also developed an even deeper admiration for the championship caliber football program.  And since we brought a film crew with us I left with a video that summarized it all in about 60 seconds. And because my phone has a camera, I’ve included a few images from the experience below.

Congratulations to The University of Alabama on your fourth national championship in seven years.  And thanks for offering us such a great story to tell. Roll Tide. And roll the video.

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Me at the end of a very hot day. I was surprised to find they had hung my initials on the columns to welcome me.
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I beat Nick Saban in a heated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
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Bear Bryant. The bird that tarnished his fedora was deported.
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If you’re ever in Tuscaloosa stop by Dreamland for some dreamy barbecue.
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And if the contacts start moving in your eyes football isn’t so simple.
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Let there be light. And Alabama football. And a flag. And maybe an umbrella.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
It was hot. Not triple-digit hot. But close.
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Turns out Alabama has had some success turning out quarterbacks. (Although doesn’t that building in Green Bay say that Don Hutson was a Center?)

 

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The Black Warrior River at sunrise. This photo may be upside down.
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You don’t want to hear me drone on about our drone.

 

 

 

How to get greater results from your reading.

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” And this reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning.  And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it. Then repeat the process. And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

 

In 2016 get more creative with your time.

Happy 2016!  I absolutely love the fresh start a new year brings. If you are like most people you’ve resolved to make this your best year yet. According to a research project I conducted in 2015 there are four basic ways to improve your life with a New Year’s resolution. You can start something good. You can quit something bad. You can make a habit of something positive. Or you can generally just stop being lame.

I have one goal that will help make 2016 the best year in my career and personal life. Simply stated, I want to make the most of my remnant time.  What does that mean? Well, we all have a slew of things we have to do.  Those include our standard work and home obligations.  Make sure you take care of those or your 2016 is likely to spoil before February. But like that poor overlooked ‘r’ in February, we all have time in every day that we are overlooking. And today I’m envisioning all that I can make of it over the next 365 days.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put is this way, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” Ralph Waldo was into the bling.

So today consider what you can do with the time hidden between your must-dos. Instead of killing that time with digital thumb twiddling, couch tuber-ing or catching Zs, spin that time-straw into gold. I challenge  you to use that time to do the things the perfect version of you would do. Read something, write something, create something, solve something, learn something, experience something, accomplish something, improve something. Or maybe buy a thesaurus and find other words to use instead of something.

Like compound interest, even little moments add up over the course of a year. Two months ago I began picking up my daughter’s guitar each night and practicing for a few minutes while she completed her bedtime routine. And while I’m no Eddie Van Halen, I can now play most Christmas songs well enough to not get booed off stage at a nursing home.

In 2016 I plan to make magic in my career. I expect to strengthen my connections to family and friends. I’m set on stockpiling more experiences, having more fun, learning and accomplishing more than ever. I hope you are too. We have 1440 minutes every day to do it.

 

50,000 reasons to take all your vacation days in 2016.

Right now millions of Americans are trying to figure out how to squeeze in the last of their remaining vacation days. Or worse, they are watching them disappear into the ether like the rest of 2015. According to a study by Oxford Economics the average American hits Dick Clark-Seacrest’s Rockin Eve with one week of unused vacation days still in their pocket. And when the ball hits Jenny McCarthy the vacation days disappear like gym goers in February.

This disturbing little study, commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association puts current vacation day consumption at the lowest point in the past four decades. And for those of you who don’t have a days-to-dollars calculator in your head, the result is 169 million days forfeited, amounting to $52.4 billion in lost benefits. Which means that your most valuable charitable contribution this year likely didn’t go to your church, the homeless or curing cancer. It went to your employer.

But there is yet a deeper problem here that The Perfect Agency Project would like to address. It’s the negative impact forgoing your vacation days has on your creative thinking. In fact, according to the National Science Foundation humans have an average of 50,000 thoughts every day. And if you don’t enjoy new experiences, read new books and meet new people you know what happens?  You have the same 50,000 thoughts day after day.  This type of stale thinking is career-threatening if you are a writer, art director, creative director, designer, strategist, developer, programer or marketer.

To enhance your creativity you have to add new fuel to the fire.  And the best way to do that is to take a day off and experience something new.  Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Meet someone new. Jump off something you’ve never jumped off. Scare yourself. Binge watch sunrises and sunsets. Visit a museum. Go to Burning Man. Because new stimuli create new memories. Which create new thoughts and new pathways. You will naturally incorporate all of these new thoughts into your work.  Which empowers you to solve new problems with more beautiful solutions.

So if you want to make 2016 your most creative and innovative year yet take your vacation days. It will freshen your thinking, expand your brain and make you a more valuable asset to your organization.  Oh, and if you do decide to jump off something you’ve never jumped off before make sure your mom isn’t driving by in her minivan. Trust me on this one.

 

 

 

Hello. Who wants to play Adele Roulette?

You’d have to be living in a connectivity-free prepper bunker right now to not know that Adele’s new album release, 25, is the hottest thing since global warming. Because even though we live in an era when people don’t buy music anymore Adele has sold 5 million albums in just 3 weeks. This uber-talented singer is everywhere. TV, radio, online, magazine, newspapers, billboards (I saw 3 giant Adele-faced billboards on one block on the sunset strip in Hollywood last week). I even check the shower before I get in each morning to make sure Adele’s not in there.

At The Perfect Agency Project we are always looking for opportunities to take advantage of culture phenomenon. And if we can rope in our favorite technologies to expand the fun, even better. So we’ve created a social game called Adele Roulette to ride the Tsunami that is Adele 25.

Here’s how you play:

1. Create a group of at least two people. Use your social network to play with people all over the country or all over the world. I like to ask people on Facebook or Twitter to RSVP to my game invitations with a simple “Hello”.

2. Pick a start time. First thing in the morning is always a good way to play.

3. Once the game starts, see who can go the longest without encountering anything Adele related. Once you hear an Adele song, see a picture of her, hear someone talk about her, read about her, or hear someone sing one of her songs you are eliminated.

4. You then have to message your group through Facebook, Twitter, text or whatever other digital connective tissue you are using to tell the team you’re out. Then make sure to describe the circumstances of your elimination.

4. The last person un-Adeleified is the winner.

The games tend to go fast. And the eliminations are unpredictable. I’ve been eliminated by my daughter singing Hello in the car (which was a particularly surprising audio shot to that back of my head). Terry Bradshaw eliminated another friend of mine on Sunday during NFL pre-game activities. Yet another friend was taken out by an online video of a toddler singing Hello while strumming a cardboard guitar. Sharing the assassination stories is the best part of the game.

So let’s give Adele Roulette a whirl. If you’ve read this far consider yourself part of my next game. And respond to this post with your elimination story. Good luck my friends. You’re going to need it.

Why everyone in advertising should own their own business.

There was a time when side hustles were frowned upon in America. And I’m not talking about the Post-Disco era. Having a second gig was discouraged because employers didn’t want anyone else owning any of their employees’ cranial space. Including the employees themselves. This is ignorant. Quite to the contrary, (delivered in my best British accent) I wish everyone at my adverting agency had a side hustle.

Throughout my career many of my team members have had interesting micro-businesses. I’ve had coworkers who created and sold posters and prints, invitations and greeting cards, cupcakes and macaroons. They’ve been DJs, authors, children’s book illustrators and whiskey makers (although not necessarily in that order). Given the innovative and interesting cast of characters I’ve worked with I expect there are plenty of other business exploits I know nothing about.

I have had a small side business for the past 10 years. I make t-shirts under the brand Adam & Sleeve. AdamandSleeve.com.  In 2006 I had an idea for a t-shirt that I really wanted. So I made a few. Other people requested them. And I realized that if I made enough to sell, I would get the t-shirts I wanted for myself for free. I’ve learned about sourcing, quality control, vendor relations, production, distribution, finance and customer service. Even better, I really enjoy it.

But a funny thing happens when you create your own business, even a micro-business, like selling micros. You develop a deeper and fuller understanding of all of the elements of business that your clients face. You better understand the contraints of time, money and resources. You understand the risks. You understand why they want their logo bigger.

Too often we only see a small sliver of what our clients are facing. Like the four blind men who are trying to describe an elephant based on the part they are touching. So we can’t understand why our clients don’t just upgrade all their gadgets and gizmos, or hire someone more savvy than my Grammy to handle their social media, or fly us all to Tahiti to research how far away it is.

Once you walk a mile in someone else’s cash register you can understand their reluctance to spend money.  Once you have received a letter from an attorney you think twice about  claiming you serve the world’s best cup of coffee.  And once you realize how hard it is to hire and retain good help you understand why the client didn’t just fire that lump of a salesman who landed in the marketing department.

So don’t be too quick to discourage your people from creating their own side business. It can be energizing, insightful and rewarding. It will help them develop empathy, which is one of the most important advertising skills. And properly managed it will pay dividends for them, for you and most importantly for your clients. Oh, and if there are any extra dividends left over please send them my way. I have another business idea to fund.

 

 

 

I Owe My Career To The Vanilla Ice Philosophy

I have a philosophy about philosophies.  It’s that everyone should have one. I believe we all need something to ground our actions, beliefs and decisions. It is our philosophies that create the bedrock of our character and our personal brands.

I also have a philosophy about the work I do as a professional creative. It encompasses why I believe advertising and marketing exist. And I stole it from Vanilla Ice. Yes, I am an evangelist of the Vanilla Ice Philosophy. What? You’ve never heard of it?  Right now consultants at Deloitte, Accenture and McKinsey are looking at each other asking, “Do you know what hell he’s talking about?” (And I know you guys read this. #analytics!)

Allow me to explain. The Vanilla Ice Philosophy was first introduced 25 years ago in Mr. Ice’s hit song, Ice Ice Baby. The philosophy emphatically states, “If there was a problem, Yo! I’ll solve it!”

It’s that simple. And it reminds me that there is only one reason agencies exist: To solve our clients’ problems. Fortunately for us, our clients always have problems (some more than others).  Sometimes they are really difficult challenges. Sometimes they are good problems to have.  But they are always there.  And solving them puts food on our tables.

I also love the attitude of this philosophy. You know, the “Yo! I’ll solve it!” part.  Because like an athlete who wants the ball, puck or frisbee when the team needs a big play, I always believe I can find a solution. So throw me the problem! Business is now my competitive sport. And I build teams full of people with the same competitive mindset.

Clients constantly warn us of big challenges or tight deadlines that make their problem difficult to solve. But our team never flinches. We’ve seen too much and overcome too many challenges. In short, we are hard to scare.

So what makes the perfect agency good at solving problems?  Again, we turn to Vanilla Ice. He doles out important instructions in the opening line of Ice Ice Baby. Because he knew in his infinite icy wisdom that the key to solving problems is to collaborate and to listen.

Collaborating means we work together. Our agency huddles together to put the best minds to work as one. We also collaborate extremely well with our clients. By representing all perspectives in the solutions we know we come up with better options than we ever could alone.

Listening means we hear the real problem to be solved. We listen for understanding. We listen for insights. We listen to hear the key problem we are trying to solve. In corporate America too much time is wasted by not hearing, identifying or responding to the real problem.

So thank you Robert Van Winkle. Over the past 25 years you’ve made great music. You’ve made us dance. And you have penned some solid philosophy that I follow every day. Word to your mother.